Azteca buys stake in Costa Rican channel

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MEXICO CITY -- TV Azteca announced June 29 the purchase of a 35% stake in broadcaster Canal 4 de Costa Rica for $2 million. The purchase is the first of a series of planned foreign acquisitions this year.

In 1997, Azteca acquired a controlling interest in stations in El Salvador and Chile, plus a UHF station in Guatemala, for a total of about $17 million.

This year, it has earmarked between $80 and $100 million for an aggressive expansion in Latin America, and Azteca plans to expand into the U.S. Hispanic market.

"Our goal is to have an Azteca-controlled network of television stations from Toronto to Tierra del Fuego," says Azteca CEO and president Ricardo Salinas Pliego.

Azteca's strategy is derive revenue from programming sales to these stations as well as from TV advertising in these smaller, but rapidly growing TV ad markets.

Costa Rican law on foreign investment limits TV Azteca to the 35% stake in Canal 4. However, it will control the day-to-day operations, including programming, local production, sales and marketing, the Mexican broadcaster says.

The Canal 4 signal reaches 80% of Costa Rica's 850,000 television homes. It broadcasts 12 hours per day and is one of six commercial TV networks in the country, where the TV ad market is estimated to reach $40 million this year.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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